Your guide to making sense of this whole mess.
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Dear lovely reader,

Just a quick note to highlight some of the bits going on this week. So much that I've given my activities their own bit in the 'What's On' section at the end.

If you're in or near Chorley, then find some children and bring them to my family show at the Little Theatre tomorrow. 

Then it's a talk in London on Tuesday evening - Socialism vs Capitalism. Going to be ace.

Wednesday morning I'm reviewing the papers with Vanessa Feltz on BBC Radio London.

Friday I'm booked in to appear on BBC Two's Politics Live.

Exciting times!

It would be lovely if you could make one of the in-person shows. If you do, please say hello.  Also, feel free to say hello after one of the broadcast bits, I'd love to know your thoughts.

Peace and love,


Things that matter

As ever at the moment, Parliament is quiet. We had a bit of a thing this week, but now that's died down, we are where we are.

A few weeks this was an intentional strategy from Mr Johnson and team. He won the election and was now, slowly, 'getting on with the job'. He didn't want any big raucous debates - and certainly no votes that could be close. No video footage of Mr Corbyn landing any blows.

So that's what happened. I'm sure you remember. It was a few weeks ago.

Now, though, it's quiet for different reasons. Right now there is (almost) only one game in town. That virus. This isn't the time to be introducing complicated big legislation. 

We're getting almost daily updates in the Commons. It's spreading. The government are trying to contain and then delay the spread. Wash your hands. We know this.

Which leaves us where? It leaves us with a sloooow week in Parliament. There is one week after next. Expect that to be just as stripped back.

Except there is something coming up that is very, very important to many people. Something that matters.

The loan charge.

There was this tax scheme. Many people who (mostly) worked freelance or were self employed ensured they were paid through an 'employee benefit trust'. The trust would then 'loan' them the money they were owed.   These 'loans' were never designed to be paid back. 

In 2019, the government spotted the loophole and closed it. They said that, because the intention was never to repay the 'loan', it should be taxed as normal income.

Bringing in that change is relatively uncontroversial. There was a tax reduction scheme. Governments don't like them. Let's get rid.

What has made people very upset, however, is that they have backdated the changes by 20 years. People are now facing bills for tax owed from 1999.  That means these bills add up. Anecdotally, people are receiving demands for over £100,000. MPs have spoken of 'bankruptcies, breakdowns and suicides'.

The argument is, of course, that this was money they should have paid. It's not the government's fault that didn't pay their 'fair share' of tax. They owe money and they should pay it. 

Not too long ago, the government commissioned a report into all this. The Amyas Report.  It came out last year. It recommended that, while the government should continue to collect monies owed, some changes need to be made. Possibly the biggest was that anything over ten years ago should be written off. It also criticised how these collections were made, suggesting that HMRC hadn't been exactly helpful.

The government said that it took the criticisms about collection onboard, it would fiddle about with the technicalities of dates, but, crucially, didn't accept the ten-year thing.

This week a debate is in Parliament on Thursday. It's been brought by David Davis (senior backbench Conservative MP), Ruth Cadbury (senior backbench Labour MP) and Dr Julian Lewis (another senior Conservative backbencher).  These are pretty high profile people. The debate is about the government response.

In what will be a dramatic turn of events, we'll see some of the most respected backbench MPs in the Commons stand together and criticise the government. It's not something that those in charge want, so it's possible some changes will be forced. Time will tell.

Next week in Parliament (and Chorley)

A big week for SP!

Saturday: I'm in Chorley, at the Little Theatre, with the wonderful and talented Tiernan Douieb with our comedy family politics show: How Does This Politics Thing Work Then. Tickets are available here

Tuesday: Socialism vs Capitalism! Yep, I'm doing a talk for adults in Shoreditch, London. It's not going to be quite as adversarial as the title suggests. Not done this one before, but I've been writing it this week and can't wait. Details and tickets here.

Wednesday: No need for tickets today. I'll be on the Vanessa Felz Breakfast show on BBC Radio London at 7.45/7.50am. I'll be reviewing the papers, which is always such a treat. Also,  Vanessa is such a pleasure to work with, always listening and asking interesting questions. That shouldn't be rare, but it really is. Anyway, you can listen on your actual radio in London or on the BBC Sounds app anywhere else.

Friday: I'm booked to do Politics Live on BBC Two. I say I'm booked, but, honestly, I'm clearly not one of their Big Guns. It's all a bit up in the air as to whether I'll be on the main panel, in the final few minutes, or cancelled altogether. We'll see. It's always fun to do, so fingers crossed.

It runs for 45 minutes from 12.15.  It's often followed by the very confusing 'Hardball' quiz show, so your lunchtime might not be a total write off.


House of Commons:


Monday and Tuesday: Final two days of the Budget debate. By now things will be quite technical and go quite deep int last week's statement.

Wednesday: PMQs, of course. That'll be followed by a debate on whichever topic the Labour Party would like to debate. Exactly what they'll choose is yet to be announced.

Thursday: It's Backbench Business day today. That can be quite interesting, with no real impact, or dull, with no real impact.  Today looks to be a little different. The first debate is on the Loan Charge (details above) and is brought by two highly regarded Conservative MPs. Worth keeping an eye out.

Friday: MPs will be in their constituencies.

House of Lords:

The highlight in the Lords this week is on Tuesday when the no-fault divorce law comes back in for it's third (of four) stage before it goes to the Commons.
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